Despite the numerous digital channels people use to connect in the workplace today, email remains one of the most commonly used professional communication tools. Whether you’re interacting with hiring managers, current employers or colleagues, you’ll want to be as polished as possible in your messages.
Business News Daily asked business and career experts for their advice. Put your best virtual foot forward every time you hit Send with these tips:
Like any written message on an online platform, your words are not private. If you aren’t alright with everyone seeing your email, you shouldn’t send it. You can’t take back your message once it’s delivered, so be careful what you type.
“Before you press Send, always ask yourself, ‘Would I be proud of this email if it were on the front page of the newspaper?’ Because what is in writing can easily be shared with others,” said Jennifer Brown, founder and CEO of PeopleTactics.
Signatures allow your recipients to get a sense of who you are on a professional level. Make sure you include your title, company name, additional contact information, social media and websites, said Lisa Chase Patterson, president of The Book Bank Foundation.
Additionally, if you use your email from your desktop and phone, it’s important that you match your signature on both devices, said Zach Feldman, chief academic officer and co-founder of New York Code + Design Academy. It’s unprofessional to sign messages with basic signatures like “Sent from my iPhone.” [Go beyond the iPhone Mail app with these email apps for iOS.]
If you receive frequently asked questions, it’s smart to use templates to ensure you provide corresponding feedback with each response. This saves you time from articulating unique, appropriate messages, said Lori Bruhns, owner and president of Lori Bruhns LLC.
“In my experience, most professionals’ email responses can be prewritten and tweaked ever so slightly to make it personal and significant to the specific email being responded to,” she said. “I suggest thinking of the top three emails most received and prewriting a response to each.”
The way you format your emails is just as important as the words you choose. To present your emails efficiently, use bullet points for important items, said Cynthia Bazin, president of SmartChic. This allows recipients to scan your email and determine its overall purpose, which most professionals will appreciate, she added.
Todd Horton, founder and CEO of KangoGift, recommends keeping emails simple. Don’t ask too many questions and expect a quick response, he said. Instead, limit yourself to just one main question or point per email.
“This does two things: It helps make the message easier to digest and makes it more manageable for the recipient to process,” Horton added.
Mistakes, typos and stylistic errors can make you appear unprofessional or incompetent. Proofreading is crucial to practice before sending an email.
“Writing your thoughts down and not proofreading them before you hit Send can destroy any hope you had at professionalism,” said Ed McMasters, director of marketing and communications at Flottman Company.
To avoid inadvertently sending an unfinished email, add your recipient’s address after you write and edit your message.
“In any email, business or not, I like to put the recipient’s email address in at the last minute, just before sending,” said Kerri Garbis, president and co-founder of Ovation Communication. “That way, I can be sure to read and re-read what I’ve written and make any changes necessary without worrying about an accidental send.”
Putting off emails can cause you to forget them entirely and make you appear irresponsible and unreliable. Lori Kaye, founder of Lion Linq, said that you should respond to your boss, client, peer or prospect the same day they email you.
“If you don’t have an appropriate answer or the correct materials, simply let them know that you received their message, and give them [the date] … they can expect to have the information they need,” she added.
Many people underestimate the importance of the email subject line. Since they serve as a preview for the rest of the email, subject lines need to be concise yet thorough enough to catch the reader’s attention.
“People prioritize what emails they read first by who the sender is – you’re going to read emails from your boss right away – and second by what the subject line says,” said David Erickson, vice president of online marketing at Karwoski & Courage.
He advised that you ask yourself what will make you recipient interested in reading the entirety of your message and to weave that into your subject line.
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
Sammi Caramela is a recent graduate of Rowan University, where she majored in writing arts and minored in journalism. She currently works as a Purch B2B staff writer while working on her first novel in her free time. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.